If you are still learning English, it can be intimidating to meet English native speakers. However, you can use body language to communicate a positive attitude and impression that will help improve your communication without speaking a word of English.

Body Language

Body Language

It is said that a new acquaintance needs only seven seconds to determine if they have a positive impression of you. Imagine this, you meet a business acquaintance for the first time – it could be your new boss, a new member of your team, or a potential client you want to sign up.

The moment that stranger sees you, his or her brain makes a thousand observations: Are you someone to approach or to avoid? Are you friend or foe? Do you have status and authority? Are you trustworthy, competent, like-able, confident?

And these impressions are made at lightning speed — making major decisions about one another in the first seven seconds of meeting.

In business interactions, first impressions are crucial. While you can’t stop people from making snap decisions, you can understand how to make those decisions work in your favor.

First impressions are more heavily influenced by non-verbal cues than verbal cues. In fact, studies have found that nonverbal cues have over four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say. If you're not confident about your spoken English, use positive body language to your advantage before you even begin a conversation.

Here are seven nonverbal ways to make a positive first impression:

1. Manage your attitude. People pick up your attitude instantly. Before you turn to greet someone, or enter the boardroom, or step onstage to make a presentation, think about the situation and make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to project. If you feel nervous, perform one or two power stances privately in the restroom to help boost your self confidence. Researchers at Harvard have found that power posing for two minutes or more make you feel more confident.

Image credit: House of Cards/Netflix

Image credit: House of Cards/Netflix

2. Straighten your posture. Status and power are nonverbally conveyed by height and space. Standing tall, pulling your shoulders back, and holding your head straight are all signals of confidence and competence.

3. Smile. A smile is an invitation, a sign of welcome. It says, “I’m friendly and approachable.”

4. Make eye contact. A common mistake is not to make confident eye contact. Looking at someone’s eyes transmits energy and indicates interest and openness. (To improve your eye contact, make a practice of noticing the eye color of everyone you meet.)

5. Raise your eyebrows. Open your eyes slightly more than normal to simulate the “eyebrow flash” that is the universal signal of recognition and acknowledgement.

6. Shake hands. A firm handshake is the quickest way to establish rapport. It’s also the most effective. Research shows it takes an average of three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level of rapport that you can get with a single handshake.

7. Lean in slightly. Leaning forward shows you’re engaged and interested. But be respectful of the other person’s space. That means, in most business situations, staying about two feet away.

Every encounter, from conferences to meetings to training sessions to business lunches, presents you with an opportunity to meet people, network, and expand your professional contacts by making a positive first impression. You’ve got just seven seconds – but if you handle it well, seven seconds are all you need! The best thing about body language? If you're still nervous about your English, positive body language helps to reinforce a good impression before you even speak!

Don't feel confident about your Business English? MANHATTAN English Studio conducts "English for Busy Professionals" twice weekly on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 7-9pm. Feel free to contact us and we will be happy to set you up with a free trial lesson!

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